American Red Cross looking for plasma, blood donors to help people during COVID-19

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The American Red Cross is looking for blood and plasma donors to help vulnerable people fight COVID-19 and other serious illnesses.

Coordinating with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Red Cross is looking for people who have recovered from the coronvirus. The Red Cross is hoping donors will sign up to donate plasma, which will then be transfused to current COVID-19 patients in the hospital.

David Moolten, Red Cross medical director for the Pennsylvania and New Jersey region, said the organization started accepting plasma donations in mid-March.

"You have to have an original positive test that shows you had it, because we want to make sure this plasma is really going to help a patient," said Moolten. "And then we need the negative test if you're between 14 and 28 days just to make sure you're not infectious."

A clinical trial by the Mayo Clinic shows two New Jersey COVID-19 patients improving after receiving the experimental plasma transfusion.

"If you take the antibodies from someone else and give them to somebody who is sick, they (the antibodies) can go to work right away and start fighting the virus," explained Moolten.

Moolten said donors can sign up online and then a Red Cross staffer will reach out. Then, the donor will go to a designated Red Cross location to donate.

Each person is hooked up to a machine for about 30 minutes, and the machine collects the plasma. "Just the plasma, the rest of their blood goes through the machine and goes back to them," Moolten explained.

The American Red Cross held a blood drive at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday. All donors had to make an appointment online before donating.

"I like that I'm able to help other people and that I can possibly save someone's life," said donor Anne Harrower of Glenside.

Alana Mauger, biomedical field marketing and communications explained, "About a quarter of our entire blood supply across the country is used by cancer patients as part of their regular treatment, so having that blood available 365 days a year is really important."

Mauger said the need for donations doesn't stop in the middle of a pandemic.

Here's the link to sign up to donate:
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